Friday, December 2, 2011

How to Have a Meaningful Christmas Without Breaking the Bank and Losing Your Marbles

Are you tired of knocking yourself out year after year?  Are you trying to please everyone with your gifts, Christmas Cards, and compulsory newsletter?  How about the holiday meal making, cookie baking, and tradition sharing?  Do you ever dread the decorating, shopping, parking, planning, photo taking, wrapping, mailing- and then possibly after all of that, the whining?  The testiness, the exhaustion, and the debt?  What if I told you that all of this is optional?  This is your freakin’ Christmas too, dammit.  You have a right to pick how you spend it.  

I once went to a pre-holiday shopping event at my friend Diana’s house. Her display of delectable holiday goodies amazed me, her homemade hot buttered rum impressed me.  Diana told me that she already had sent her Christmas cards-in October- to a place in Alaska called “North Pole” so that her envelopes would have that whimsical postmark.  She also made her girls a truly unbelievable scrapbook every year as a gift, complete with fabulous quotes she found inspiring and apropos- in her handwriting so gorgeous it should be a font.  When I left her house, I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide until February.   How could I ever measure up to this perfection?  My handwriting doesn’t look like that!  I didn’t know people actually drank hot buttered rum, let alone made it at home! I was completely confounded about her ability to mail Christmas cards from the North freakin’ Pole in October- a picture card of course, where her girls are wearing matching velvet pinafores and Mary Janes, curled hair, and serene expressions on their beautiful faces.  My Christmas photo that I took of my boys had been taken on December 23rd, under extreme duress, and possibly death threats.  I’m not sure, I think I blocked it out after I saw my older son put his baby brother in a headlock.  

Then something interesting happened to my friend Diana.  She called me a few days before Christmas- hysterical.  I thought something truly awful had happened to her, and I braced myself for her response when I asked her what was wrong.  Diana told me her family had cut themselves a magnificent tree in the mountain woods and dragged it home.  It was so wide that it wouldn’t fit through the front door- and she lost her cookies, right then and there.  Because her friggin perfect Christmas tree from the magic forest didn’t fit through the door.   I tried to console her, but she had already gone bat-shit crazy from the ridiculous, intense pressure she had put on herself to make a very Martha Stewart Christmas.  After the hyperventilating, sobbing, shaking and crying was over (I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not), she told me of all the tasks she hadn’t done yet-small things, like buying presents for her family- and proceeded to get a nasty migraine that kept her in her cold dark bedroom for the next few days, and Christmas.  I think her holiday was spent snuggled up next to her bottle of Imitrex  with a cool cloth on her head.  Not a very merry Christmas for Diana.

Sometime after the “too fat Christmas tree debacle”, I realized that I , too, was doing things that I thought my family cared about, but didn’t.  When I didn’t get a thank you or a pat on the back, I got pissy.  I put so much pressure on myself to make every Christmas so wonderful, that I was actually running myself ragged, making myself crazy, and I always got sick the week before the big day.   

While discussing this problem with my friend and fellow coach Connie Larson, we discovered a way to make sure that everyone in the family has the Christmas season that they want.  We came up with a series of questions that has freed us from much of the holiday hysteria we used to encounter. Here are the magic questions…

What are your top 3 holiday memories and why ?

What are 3 foods you can’t live without eating during the holidays?

What are 3 of your favorite holiday smells?

What are 3 things you want to see at Christmastime?

What kind of music, TV shows, or movies to you want to hear or watch?

Where do you want to go and who do you want to see during the holiday season? 

Don’t forget to answer these questions yourself. The object of these questions is to get your loved ones focused on what they want to feel over the holidays, so that you don’t run around guessing and spending time and money on things that no one cares about.  It is also a very easy way to track that everyone is experiencing their favorite things during this special time.  Now that you have compiled the list of holiday want to’s- say NO to anything that isn’t on the list.  Unless something extra makes you and your family feel good, don’t do it.  If you need permission, I’m giving it to you.  It feels great to focus on the feelings you want to have more than you focus on buying.  It truly does feel better to FEEL than FILL.